Pathway to Healing — Write It Down, Burn It Down!
“I want to heal from my abuse, but I don’t know how.”
“I want to forgive my partner, but I don’t know how.”
“I will never forgive this person for what they did.”
Have you heard that famous phrase, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die?”
At The Hotline, we hear so many voices echoing this feeling every day. Some of our contacts tell us that although they are now living free of abuse, they still struggling with resentment: They are unable to forgive their abuser. And forgiveness is a unique tool that will help you on your path to healing.
The act of forgiving seems easy, but we know first-hand that forgiving someone is way more complex than that. You see, forgiveness is a decision (just as much as abuse is also a decision but rooted in power and control). But forgiving someone you love — like an abuser — is not only hard, it can make you feel confused, angry and more importantly, resentful.
Although it is normal to experience resentment at some point in our lives, it can really have a devastating effect on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, as Steven Stosny, Ph.D. points out. Not only it boosts stress, it can also let you feeling down and incapable of seeing things for what they really are or having positive and meaningful interactions with those around you. That’s because until you don’t let go of that “poison” you can’t move on to the forgiving part.
If you’d like to forgive your partner but don’t know how, here's how you can get started:
- Try writing it down, then burn it down.
As simple as this sounds, it can be incredibly challenging for survivors of abuse to acknowledge the abuse via writing because they may feel like reliving the abuse in their heads all over again. As Louise Hay used to say, “forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing the painful behaviors or actions of another to continue in your life. Sometimes forgiveness means letting go: You forgive that person and then you release them.” We know writing can therapeutic, so that’s why we suggest maybe taking a piece of paper and writing a letter to your abuser; tell this person how you feel and what would you like to have done differently and if you find it in your heart, forgive the other person and their trespasses by clearly writing, “I forgive you.”
Take this one step further and let go of the “poison” by burning the letter (or sending it to your abuser if there’s no direct legal or physical implications to you or your family). Healing begins when you release the anger, frustration, and resentment in a written way and then burning it down may be a good way to cope with resentment and letting go of the past. Just be careful when lighting those matches!